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Festival Recap: Download Festival 2024

Lead Photo Credit: James Bridle
Words by: Laviea Thomas

Download Festival has returned to Derby’s renowned Donington Park for a soggy yet eventful weekend. Upon arriving at the festival gates, thousands of fans were scattered about—some wearing inflatable dinosaur costumes, others sporting band ponchos and vintage T-shirts. Additionally, several attendees were spotted in the limited edition Zeitgeist x MEYBA bespoke Download Festival 2024 football shirts.

Expectations were high for this year’s Download, following last year’s monumental 20th-anniversary lineup featuring a double headline set from Metallica and performances by Bring Me the Horizon and Slipknot, among others. This year, the festival expanded its horizons, presenting a more progressive lineup than ever before, including bands like Busted, Sum 41, and Royal Blood, among others.

CONE Magazine was on the scene during the three-day event. Check out our recap of the most memorable acts and moments from the 2024 Download Festival. 

 

Day 1 – Friday

Scene Queen

Kickstarting Friday afternoon with witty lyrics and hard breakdowns was rising Bimbocore artist Scene Queen. She stood out as one of the freshest and most innovative faces in the nu-metal scene at the time, despite having only two and a half years of touring experience. Her presence on stage was nothing short of exhilarating.

At Download’s Opus stage, adorned in a pink two-piece with a matching microphone in hand, Scene Queen began her set with a comical query: “How does my ass look in HD?” The audience responded with a thunderous cheer. Later, she enthusiastically encouraged the crowd to form a “twerk pit” during the live rendition of her flirtatious single, “Pink G String.” Throughout her set, she delivered massive singles like “MILF,” “Pink Panther,” “Pink Rover,” and “Barbie & Ken.” Before exiting the stage, she gave a shout-out to Pride Month and later ran into the crowd to high-five everyone in the front row. It was a delight to witness Scene Queen, a prominent female artist in nu-metal, command the second-largest stage at Download with such charisma and glory—a significant nod to the evolution of heavy music.

URNE

Shifting gears, London-based hardcore group URNE took over The Dogtooth Stage, introducing their unique brand of orc music. Walking onto the stage one by one, they prompted the audience to immediately raise their metal horns into the air. From the moment they began, chaos ensued, with blinding stage lights sweeping across the venue as the band unleashed tracks from their 2023 album A Feast on Sorrow, featuring annihilating riffs and guttural vocals.

If you were looking for a heavy band to follow during the festival, URNE was the one you didn’t want to miss. They were a great reminder of Download’s roots, showing that even with its progressive lineup this year, there will always be space for heavier projects to thrive.  

 

Black Stone Cherry 

Taking the main stage at Download Festival’s Apex Stage was the Texan dad-rock group Black Stone Cherry, although they wouldn’t necessarily label themselves as such. Drawing a large and diverse crowd that extended to the back and up the hill, Black Stone Cherry had one of the most varied audiences of the day.

The group got straight to the point, opening with their anthemic country number “Me and Mary Jane.” Bassist Steve Jewell rocked out in a wrestling mask, while frontman Chris Robertson led the audience with a raspy vocal delivery and occasional bluesy scats.

Having performed at their eighth Download Fest in their career so far, Black Stone Cherry guitarist Ben Wells declared, “This one feels like the best one yet. No one does it like UK festivals.” As the group exited the stage, drummer John Fred Young bid the fans farewell with an electrifying solo. 

 

Make Them Suffer

As we approached the Dogtooth Stage (again), the scene was electric—fans were spilling out of the tent, desperate to find a way inside for Australian metalcore five-piece Make Them Suffer. Over the last few years, the rise of metalcore has been a highlight of the ever-evolving doom pit of the metal scene. With their critically acclaimed album Worlds Apart in 2017, Make Them Suffer has been on an upward trajectory, proving to the industry that they are one of the strongest faces in metalcore right now.

During their set, the balance between frontman Sean Harmanis’s cutthroat scream delivery and Alex Reade’s ethereal vocals brought the show to life. In a moment of extreme optimism, Sean commanded the audience to generate 342 crowd surfers for their final song. Despite this completely unrealistic goal, the audience eagerly took on the challenge.

 

Busted

For a refreshing change of pace, we headed to Kerrang! Radio’s stage, The Avalanche, to catch Busted. The band kickstarted their gig with bangers, quickly launching into their 2003 hit single “Air Hostess,” which the crowd sang back word-for-word. Similar to Make Them Suffer, Busted’s show was extremely cramped. Fans, obviously frustrated, muttered to one another about not being able to fit into the tent or see the band properly due to the sheer size of the audience. Nonetheless, despite the limited venue capacity, this didn’t hinder people’s excitement for the collection of mainstream hits the band played, including “MMMBop 2.0” and “What I Go to School For.” Busted’s set at Download was a collaboration none of us knew we needed. 

 

Funeral for a Friend

Determined not to let festival clashes get the best of us, we crossed over to Opus to catch some Funeral for a Friend’s set. Fire erupted from the stage as the band kicked off with their opening number, “This Year’s Most Open Broken Heart,” followed by their emotionally-charged “Juneau.” This was a big moment for the band, as Holding Absence’s lead singer, Lucas Woodland, took to the stage as their new frontman following Matthew Davies-Kreye’s departure in 2023. As one of the OG emo bands on the festival bill, Funeral gathered thousands of devoted fans on Friday night, who sang their hearts out and headbanged their way into neck cramps. In an unlikely turn of events, Busted frontman Charlie Simpson joined the group for their single “All the Rage.” If you thought Busted at Download was surprising, imagine a collaboration between Funeral for a Friend, Holding Absence’s vocalist, and Busted’s lead singer.

 

Queens of the Stone Age

A horde of people sprinted towards Download’s main stage to catch headliners Queens of the Stone Age. Playing a few minutes ahead of schedule, the band quickly crunched into “Little Sister.”

“Tonight we’ll guide you into a night you’ll never fucking remember. Are you ready?” frontman Josh Homme shouts. Of that he was right, as Queen’s set was completely unremarkable. Despite spinning into certified industry acclaimed hits “Paper Machete,” and “Emotion Sickness,” if Queens’ set showed us anything, it’s that they’re just a dad rock band with less tangible hits and zero unironic sex appeal. 

“Tonight we’ll guide you into a night you’ll never fucking remember. Are you ready?” frontman Josh Homme shouted. He was right; Queens’ set was truly  unremarkable. Despite diving into critically acclaimed hits like “Paper Machete” and “Emotion Sickness,” Queens’ set revealed them as nothing more than a dad rock band with few memorable hits and zero unironic sex appeal.

For the remainder of Queens’ set, drummer Jon Theodore ripped up a solo, while Josh followed up with a neat shred on guitar. The band thrashed into “No One Knows.” Halfway through this track, there was a technical difficulty that made Josh’s vocals almost impossible to hear. Despite this, the band continued with the show, and the issues were fixed soon after. Unfortunately, Queens’ set didn’t live up to the hype, especially since it was Friday’s headlining performance. As they exited the stage, Josh waved goodbye to the audience before lighting up what could have been either a cigarette or a spliff—an obnoxious exit, to say the least. Despite the lackluster performance, Download’s Friday lineup ignited the festival weekend with an electrifying start, offering a glimpse of the diverse range of artists on the lineup yet to come.

 

Day 2 – Saturday

As we entered the arena, a woman outside the Co-op was busy shredding on the guitar before noon—only at Download could such wonderful scenes be possible. Her impromptu performance set the perfect tone for day two of the festival.

 

Guilt Trip 

Heading into the second day strong, Mancunian five-piece Guilt Trip delivered heavyweight beatdown metal vibes at The Dogtooth Stage. Despite their immaculate high energy, the tempo of their opening song felt a bit choppy at times.

Nonetheless, the band quickly transitioned into an enormous track with hardcore punk tendencies and groove metal influences. “I want the roof off this tent! This one is called ‘Thin Ice,’” frontman Jay Valentine declared. Like clockwork, a circle pit formed, and guitarist Sam Barker harmonized additional throat screams with Jay’s vocals. “I wanna see the biggest circle pot this stage has ever fucking seen,” added Jak Maden. Soon enough, the crowd spread out as demanded—not the biggest, but a notable dent was made.

If you’re ever wondering where the heavier music is set up whilst at Download, you’re sure to find the underground, more up-and-coming projects settled at The Dogtooth stage, and, of course, the bigger, more established projects on Apex. 

 

Babymetal

Waltzing to the Apex Stage in an orderly line to the sounds of ethereal and theatrical production, Babymetal made their much-awaited appearance. Star-Wars-inspired scrolling text appeared as a backdrop with the words, “A long time ago in a heavy metal galaxy far, far away…”

Opening with the showstopping “BABYMETAL DEATH,” the girls danced in unison, delivering hypnotic adlibs while their band seized and destroyed with heavy breakdowns. Not even two songs in, however, Babymetal walked off stage amid their second track “Distortion”. Originally attributed to technical difficulties, the abrupt end was later revealed to be caused by the weather conditions.

After a few screen announcements, the band returned, encouraging the audience to raise their hands—a request that was eagerly met. Throughout the rest of the set, Babymetal continued to perform with mesmerizing choreography, blending commercial pop with K-pop and metal. Their innovative approach brought a unique flair to Download’s Saturday lineup.

 

Enter Shikari

Enter Shikari opened with a story to tell, diving straight into their helter-skelter cut, “Meltdown.” Despite a challenging morning, during which they argued with fans online about their Download appearance due to the Barclays sponsorship, seeing them play after Barclays pulled from the festival was a pleasant surprise for everyone that afternoon. For the next few tracks, the band ripped into nonstop bangers, including “Live Outside” and “Sssnakepit.” Melding their classic drum and bass tendencies with metal, Enter Shikari put on a vibrant show, despite the majority of their set sounding relatively quiet.

After playing synths, frontman Rou Reynolds appeared on stage with a random banana—where from, you ask? No one knows. Electro-punk fusion duo Wargasm joined them for their next song, having played the same stage earlier that day. As usual, Sam Matlock belted out deep gutturals for their collaborative track “The Void Stares Back.” 

After disappearing into a box with a glow wave effect during their performance of “Bloodshot,” Rou was found singing “Satellite” from a sound box opposite the stage—an iconic moment. Following an eventful few tracks, Rou crowd-surfed before diving and lying in the mud.

Wrapping up with an EDM-esque remix of “Sorry You’re Not a Winner,” Enter Shikari concluded their entertaining show with a final shout-out to their Jewish and Muslim friends from around the world, along with their heartfelt single “A Kiss for the Whole World.”

 

While She Sleeps

Teasing similar drum and bass tendencies but with a heavier spin, the Yorkshire quartet While She Sleeps took the Opus stage by storm. Guitarist and backing vocalist Mat Welsh screamed, “Download, get the fuck up!” as fire shot off the stage, and the band launched into their climactic electro-metal-edged single “RAINBOWS.” Frontman Lawrence Taylor appeared to be having the time of his life, occasionally whipping out spin kicks on stage. Crowd surfers promptly formed in response to his request to break the record for the most crowd surfers during their obliterating single “Four Walls.” Sean Long later sliced up some stunning riffage on their anthemic release “TO THE FLOWERS.”

 

Hang the DJs

Heading towards Rocktail Cocktail to catch Hang the DJs’ 90s rave set was a must. Spinning an EDM remix of Simple Plan’s “I’m Just a Kid,” Hang the DJs are famous for their off-kilter remixes of mainstream pop bangers with conventional alt-rock, punk, and metal hits. The crowd went absolutely wild as the band spun into a club mix of Bloodhound Gang’s ‘99 release “The Bad Touch.” Notable remixes included a donk-inspired remix of “Living on a Prayer” and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies.” The duo also sent the crowd into a frenzy with “Cotton Eye Joe,” as strangers swung one another, arm in arm. By this point, it was a total mud bath, which was the perfect signal to move on to the next act.

 

Fall Out Boy 

Fall Out Boy made a triumphant return to Download after 10 years, performing to a massive audience of 80,000 people. This was no ordinary show; it was a spectacle of a lifetime, featuring a dream setlist that left fans in awe.

The band wasted no time, playing their smash hits from the jump. Confetti spilled out of the stage for the third track of their set, 2005’s “Sugar, We’re Goin Down,” which was  followed up by “Dance Dance,” which ignited the crowd’s energy to an explosive level.

Expressing both gratitude and nervousness about playing at the festival, bassist and backing vocalist Pete Wentz said, “I saw Metallica play here, and it was a dream. To be here is so special.”

As red lights engulfed the stage, a ticking time bomb teased the audience before the band launched into their critically acclaimed hit “Thnks fr th Mmrs.” Fall Out Boy’s performance was not just about the music, though; it was a visual spectacle too. The floating sheep prop was replaced with a giant bear prop for their anthemic song “I Don’t Care,” adding to the excitement.

Just when the audience thought the show couldn’t get any better, Pete shot fire from the tip of his guitar head during their single “Phoenix,” while flames burst across the stage. Frontman Patrick Stump showcased his effortless vocals on the melodic alt-rock ballad “What a Catch, Donnie,” switching to keys for a captivating performance. In a surprising turn of events, a fan asked the band to do their baby’s gender reveal, which Pete awkwardly but playfully accepted, ironically suggesting the family name the baby boy, “Download 2024.”

Fall Out Boy provided numerous memorable moments throughout their set, including Pete’s solo moment where he was hoisted in the air with a batch of balloons, and when cheerleaders came out wearing demonic masks. The band concluded their set with a bang, quite literally, as a stunning compilation of fireworks lit up the sky as fans exited the venue. Their Saturday night performance was a magical end to an incredible day at the festival.

 

Day 3 – Sunday

Sunday at Download Festival got off to a rocky start when organizers pushed the schedule back by an hour to lay more hay down. While a great idea in theory, the mix of hay, woodchips, and rain turned the ground into complete mush, doubling the challenge of navigating between venues.

 

Code Orange

Pennsylvanian metalcore group Code Orange made a lasting impression with a set on the Apex stage. Although the arena was still relatively clear, an early afternoon metalcore set was not uncommon at Download. 

Frontman Jami Morgan waltzed onto the stage in a skin mask with a microphone draped around his neck. Quickly snatching off the mask, Jami beckoned, “Download, wake the fuck up!” He then banged the microphone against his head, letting blood drip down his face as he casually wiped it onto his T-shirt. The band then launched into their melodic-tinged hardcore single, “Theatre of Cruelty,” with Jami wasting no time as he burst into aggressive spin kicks.

Due to the festival schedule being pushed back an hour, headliners Avenged Sevenfold had to cut all bands’ mainstage sets slightly short. In a rage against this, guitarist Reba Meyers shouted them out before attempting to play their next song. However, the festival organizers had already cut their mics. Despite the chaos, the band continued their final song without sound, with the crowd roaring in solidarity with the band.

 

Bowling for Soup

“I’ve done three songs without a drink of beer,” shouts Bowling for Soup frontman Jaret Reddick, as the crowd comedically boos, teasing him for his sobriety. Bringing a touch of humor and silliness to Donington Park, Bowling for Soup put on a lively show with a setlist of their best, cheesy pop-punk hits, including “Punk Rock 101,” “Almost,” “1985,” and “High School Never Ends.”

Whipping out spirit fingers and jazz hands for “Ohio,” the band followed up with a short cover of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag.” To celebrate their 30 years as a band, Bowling for Soup announced some exciting news during their set: they’ll be touring with Wheatus in February 2025.

 

Of Mice & Men

Fans cheered as the touring assistants began to pull up the banner for Of Mice & Men’s set on The Avalanche stage. “Download, beautiful people, hands up,” frontman Aaron Pauley commanded before unleashing a death scream.

Performing on a raised platform, OM&M elevated their show to new levels, quite literally, with electrifying energy, tough breakdowns, and deep gutturals. “What’s the first rule of a mosh pit if someone falls down, what do we do?” Asks Aaron. The audience enthusiastically replied, “We pick them up!” Unlike most bands, Aaron commanded the circle pits effortlessly with a simple circular motion of his index finger. Everybody seemed to get the memo, as fans crawled from the back to join in.

Fists appeared in the air immediately for their obliterating song, “You Make Me Sick,” while the band headbanged in unison. Finishing up with the old but gold “Second & Sebring,” OM&M tore the roof off The Avalanche with a set to remember.

 

Sum 41

For the past year, Sum 41 has been teasing their breakup. On Sunday, the band announced that this would be their final UK festival appearance. As a nod to their final UK festival, the band took the audience through a setlist of old gems and new tracks from their final album. As usual, their 2001 hit, “In Too Deep,” was a crowd-pleaser. Building on this energy, the band delivered an explosive cover of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” with a gnarly guitar solo by Jason McCaslin.

“We’re gonna miss you. Thank you for having us here all these years” said frontman Deryck Jason Whibley. Saving the best for last, the band followed up with “Fat Lip,” before launching into “Still Waiting.” If their set taught us anything, it’s that in their 30-year legacy, the music industry has never and will never tire of the significance this band has in the pop-punk world.

 

Limp Bizkit

“This is Download 2024 right, but you came to party like it’s 1999,” Fred Durst boomed on the mic. Drawing one of the largest crowds of the festival weekend, Limp Bizkit put on a massive karaoke gig at Download’s Apex stage, belting out huge hits like “Break Stuff,” “My Way,” and “My Generation,” to name a few.

Dozens of Fred Durst hats and inflatable chainsaws floated above the crowd, which were often highlighted on the big screens. Being a Limp Bizkit fan in 2024 isn’t just about appreciating the music—it’s about your loyalty to being part of a cult of Fred Durst clones.

Unlike any other band at the festival, Limp Bizkit spent most of their set with commercial-like breaks between songs. There were regular moments where the band played music between their tracks, including Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” Tina Turner’s “Rolling,” and others, while Fred took leisurely water breaks. Somehow, only a band like Limp Bizkit could get away with this, as there was hardly any fuss from the audience. Who knew that booking Limp Bizkit would turn out to be such an entertaining treat at Download?

 

Avenged Sevenfold 

Fans eagerly lingered around Apex, anticipating the arrival of headliners Avenged Sevenfold. A melodic harp introduced them, while frontman M. Shadows sat in a chair with a balaclava on. Soon after, the band launched into the frenetic “Game Over.” For the next two hours, Avenged put on one of the most enchanting, mesmerizing sets of the entire festival weekend, easily rivaling Fall Out Boy’s showstopping delivery on Saturday night.

A burst of an eerie noise echoed through the audience—M. Shadows’s signature evil cackle, of course. After a heartfelt shout-out to Father’s Day, the band followed up with their progressive metal track, “Hail to the King.” Thousands of arms appeared on the big screens as fans raised their fists in the air, screaming along to the hook, “hail, hail, hail.”

In the first four tracks, Avenged’s show was a complete whirlwind with ethereal production and spellbinding guitar riffs. Watching them in the dark as the stars and the moon overlooked the scene felt like being in a Tim Burton movie—they’re the perfect band to watch as the sky fades to black.

Diving into their famed hard rock release “Nightmare,” the band intensified the mystical wonder of this song with avant-garde graphics. Unfortunately, due to further technical difficulties, their set was momentarily cut shortly after this. Returning, and this time with even heavier and harder riffage for the repeat of the hook of “Hail to the King,” the band continued their set as usual. Huge skeletons appeared on the backdrop for the introduction of “A Little Piece of Heaven,” later replaced by intergalactic visuals for the penultimate, “Save Me,” and extraterrestrial finale “Cosmic.” 

 

While Download Festival 2024 was one of the most chaotic runs for the books, it was equally one of the most exciting, musically progressive, and diverse lineups we’ve seen from them. With every up, there is a down—Download 2024, you were special, even if you did test our patience from time to time.

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